Luke Fowler

Article by Milo Chernobyl | 15 Feb 2006
The worn view of documentary film making - a stubbornly objective camera, impassively recording events in front of it - is massively subverted in Luke Fowler's work. Subjectivities leak into the very structural syntax of his films, shattering normative, unified narratives and replacing them with a vivid, equivocal portrait of rock stars or sociological experiments.

Recently nominated for the Beck's Futures and chosen by the Modern Institute for their show in the Armory, New York, Fowler creates fractured bricolages of found images, half-inched slogans or hand-drawn symbols, making a composite that eludes conventional narratives to create intuitively woven pieces reverberant with the vitality of their subject. Initially known for his music label Shaddaz, which pluralistically collated music from around Glasgow, putting out compilations or specially created pop videos intended to be shown in a gallery, Fowler has since been recognised for films documenting the work of R.D Laing, a maverick psychologist, or Xentos Jones, the charismatic, eccentric lead-singer of punk band the Homosexuals.

Walter Benjamin noticed that history was non-neutral, that the present rearranged the units of the past into a form that best suited its current needs. Fowler, by mashing together documentary photos, super-8 film, scraps of sound and a clutch of other visual documents, constructs personal histories from hidden, forgotten materials, resurrecting his characters and letting their stories blot into the very structure of the films.
Never claiming to be an accurate document, the played-out psychodrama of the work is knotted with diversions, qualifications and elaborations which confound yet consume the viewer.

His film 'What You See is Where You're At,' documents the work of R.D Laing, a benevolent psychologist that conducted a pioneering social experiment in the sixties. The therapetiuc conventions of the time - Electro-shock therapy, strait jackets and incarceration - were jettisonsed in favour of a pioneering treatment giving the patient liberty and sanctuary so they can live through their problems. Fowler's other film, 'The Way Out,' is, in opposition to his previous film, a psychedelic, exuberant miasma depicting the flamboyance, bloody-mindedness and idiosyncrasies of its subject, Xentos Jones. Soundtracked by a gently babbling electronic score, 'The Way Out' is a claustrophobic, unflinching portrait of a fascinating character. Returning to the Modern Institute, the gallery which represents him, the exhibition will be a great chance to see one of Glasgow's leading lights.
Modern Insitute from Feb 18 to March 18.